Nakheel-Planting Islands

Modern technology is evolving at a frightening speed and ambitious scientists are beginning to realize that anything is possible. Less than a century ago, if you’d told anyone that people will travel to the moon, you would have found yourself heading to the nearest psychiatrist, no matter how calmly you relayed that information. Claims of talking to someone on a miniature phone, driving around in a horseless cart, building skyscrapers or seeing moving pictures in a box will have harbored the same results. With todays technology, however, even the most phenomenal natural process can be replicated and according to some, improved.

Volcanoes have been responsible for spewing up islands (formed from massive amounts of magma) since the beginning of time. It is a challenge imagining anything more powerful than an erupting mountain. However, a now infamous United Emirates Development company-Nakheel-had decided to take on the challenge of creating huge man made islands off the Dubai coastline-without any volcanic help.

Cities have been carved out of mountains and forests, it was only a matter of time before we saw islands erected in the ocean. The first of Nakheel’s projects was the Palm Jumeirah, launched in 2001, with more islands currently being added. Palm Jumeirah is already home to 500 families and contains malls, hotels, resorts, schools and parks. Leaving this sanctuary is unnecessary since it provides everything a family would need to live comfortably. According to the Nakheel website: “ When complete, projects such as the Palm Trilogy, the World and Waterfront will add more than 600 miles of beachfront to the Dubai coastline and cover over 2 billion sq ft.”

The idea of building islands is catching on: Phuket, Thailand is planning to build Zoran, a man made island specifically designed to cater to super yachts. Spain has proposed a Marina development near Gibraltar, while Qatar has already started building “The Pearl” off its coast. International Listings shows the top 10 man made islands in greater detail.

With the ability to create something of such proportions comes an environmental responsibility. Smaller islands have been built in the past, such as Florida’s Venetian Islands built during the 1920s. These islands, built to house more luxurius real estate, connect to the causway that runs from Miami to Miami beach.

Dubai thrives on tourism and as the fastest growing city in the world, is always adding real estate. The addition of 60km per 1km of coastline gives tourists added incentives to visit the country and enjoy the warm waters. Pouring billions of tons of sand onto the ocean floor does not sound like it is doing the ocean ecosystem any favors, even though Nakheel company representatives claim that the corals in the area where mostly dead and with minimal wildlife. This is arguable, especially with the water now murky from the silt, but in Nakheel’s defense, they plan on creating artificial coral habitats, the sand will eventually settle, while the areas between the developed islands have already proven to be ideal habitats for species of sea grasses. Smaller remote islands will be specially created for nesting sea turtles. It is important to note that turtles tend to nest in uninhabited areas making Dubai’s mainland beaches inhospitable to the species. It is in the developers’ best interest to create the ideal habitats for the local wildlife since snorkeling with dolphins, turtles and fish amongst coral reefs and sea grasses adds to the appeal of living on an island.

Looking at the Dubai coast from space, the expansive swirls of land and palm shaped islands seem out of place. It will be interesting to see whether oceanic wildlife will benefit from the expansion, especially with oceanic experts and conservation biologists giving advice to the development team.

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